The Battle for Ceredigion

16 December, 2009

I announced this battle three months ago, but I only got to fighting it this week. With it fought the King Magnus campaign is now ready to go. This was a battle fought between me and Steve, of Small Sagas fame.

Gruffudd ap Cynan acquitted himself so well against Earl Robert the other day that I felt he deserved a shot at leading the Welsh in the up-coming campaign. Therefore, in the summer of 1103, fresh from his victory over Earl Robert, Gruffudd ap Cynan decided to challenge his son-in-law, Gruffudd ap Rhys, ruler of the South Welsh, for control of Ceredigion.

The North Welsh army was totally in line with the list: 1x3Cv, 8x3Sp and 3x2Ps. The South Welsh one was more varied: 1x3Cv, 2x3Wb, 2x4Bd, 1x2Ps and 6x3Bw. The blade were Wexford Viking allies.

Thing went Gruffudd ap Cynan’s way initially, as he found local noblemen sympathetic to his cause; this meant that Gruffudd ap Rhys was the attacker, trying to regain control of the region. Gruffudd ap Cynan used this situation to his advantage, bringing his rival to battle on a very flat field. It was intersected by a road and had a smallish steep hill in one corner and two small woods in opposite corners. Gruffudd ap Cynan even got the edge he wanted (more correctly Gruffudd ap Rhys got the one he didn’t want). Gruffudd ap Rhys deployed with his archers massed on one wing and his close-order troops and retinue on the other. Gruffudd ap Cynan met this by deplying a group of three spear and supporting skirmishers on the road. They’d use it to get clear of the wood. He deployed the rest of the army in line to meet Gruffudd ap Rhys’s close order troops.

Initial Deployments: Gruffudd ap Rhys on left, Gruffudd ap Cynan on right.

On the first turn Gruffudd ap Rhys had enough PIPs to order a general advance and get clear of the woods. Gruffudd ap Cynan had 6 PIPs and advanced his column up the road, advanced his line and used the psiloi ability to make multiple moves on the first turn to bring the psiloi on the left flank to the right.

Turn 1: Gruffudd ap Cynan's column takes care not to advance too far.

On the next turn, Gruffudd ap Rhys continued to advance, while Gruffudd ap Cynan managed to get his troops out of column, something of a rarity for me when using roads!

Turn 2: Gruffudd ap Cynan's column is now neatly deployed.

Gruffudd ap Rhys advanced with some caution, while Gruffudd ap Cynan, like some latter-day Leonidas against Persians, ordered his spear to charge the opposing archers. The archers forced the wings of his formation to recoil. Not feeling confident about facing Gruffudd ap Rhys’s heavy troops, Gruffudd ap Cynan opted to wheel his right wing and anchor it with light troops on the hill.

Turn 3: Gruffudd ap Cynan's spear are forced back by a hail of arrows.

Not dissuaded by the shooting (in fact the second time round it was totally ineffective), on the next turn Gruffudd ap Cynan’s left wing closed with the enemy. If the centre won its combat the wings would have tasty odds of 3-1. However, the archers proved tougher than expected and the centre was driven back. The other two combats were now at even odds, and Gruffudd ap Cynan was perhaps fortunate not to come to any grief, recoiling one and having a stalemate with the other.

Turn 4: The charge of the Northern spear is ineffectual.

At this point Gruffudd ap Rhys had the chance to ruin the Northen attack, flanking both sides of the formation. The left element was destroyed, but the right one very nearly destroyed his attacker (2+3 v 2+6).

Turn 5 (Gruffudd ap Rhys): The Northern attack on the left is in trouble.

Gruffudd ap Cynan is now feeling less confident; putting on a brave face he sends his spear back into the fray, and tries to extend the line with the skirmishers. His right flank continues its advance. His spear is again driven back, as are the skirmishers from archery.

Turn 5 (Gruffudd ap Cynan): The spear still cannot make headway against the archers.

Concentrated archery fire caused no serious damage to the left wing and Gruffudd ap Cynan responded by having his spear turn to face the archers that had earlier flanked them; these were supported by an element of spear from the right flank. Heavily outclassed these archers were put to flight.

Turn 6: Gruffudd ap Cynan gives the southern archers some payback.

Gruffudd ap Rhys’s archers now turn on the northern skirmishers, a tasty target, but fail to do any serious damage. In response, Gruffudd ap Cynan sends his spear and skirmishers into combat with the archers on his left wing. He is driven back in the centre, but on the wing, his skirmishers put the opposing archers to flight (1+3 v 1+1).

Turn 7: Success for Gruffudd ap Cynan as more archers fall.

The tide is now turning on the Southerners. The combat on their right wing has sucked up their PIPs while their heavy troops have not managed to get to blows with the enemy. In their turn they fight the spear in the centre to a standstill.

Turn 8 (Gruffudd ap Rhys): Gruffudd ap Rhys's Ostmen and spearmen look on as the archers do all the fighting.

Finally Gruffudd ap Cynan sees a chance to end the battle and personally leads the attack on the now depleted archers. In some tough fighting two more elements are broken and Gruffudd ap Rhys abandons the field.

Turn 8 (Gruffudd ap Cynan): Gruffudd ap Cynan lead the attack that sees the southern archers fold.

Turn 8 (Gruffudd ap Cynan): Gruffudd ap Cynan, looking suspiciously Scottish surveys the feild he now controls.

  • Review:

Spear against Bow in the open ought to be a fairly unfair fight, but Gruffudd ap Cynan made it a close run affair, which might be expected when three spear take on six bow. However, had that initial combat gone his way, it might have been all over much quicker. I doubted the wisdom of Gruffudd ap Rhys’s deployment; two blocks of archers might have worked better. He needed to get his blade and warband in amongst the spear, where they would have had the edge.

With this victory Gruffudd ap Cynan gained control of Ceredigion and would lead the Welsh in the King Magnus campaign. I was a little disappointed by this, as I felt the South Welsh would have been more interesting, as they’re the only army with lots of archers, while there are a lot of spear armies in the campaign already.

However, I have to admit that Gruffudd ap Cynan is a more impressive historical figure, and this battle provided the impetus for me to create a troop type that, in my opinion, better reflects the North Welsh spear: it’s crazy that their home terrain of ‘Hilly’ forces them to deploy steep hills that they can’t fight on effectively. Therefore, in this campaign the Welsh and the Pre-feudal Scots 3Sp will be Sp(L) .

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